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A simple and satisfying one pot meal is the perfect way to nourish your family! This traditional Hungarian Goulash recipe is full of tender chunks of beef and vegetables in a rich, savory broth. The hearty stew (or soup) is a cozy, easy dinner that the whole family will love. Serve it with mashed potatoes, noodles, or a loaf of crusty bread!
Traditional Hungarian Goulash Recipe
This goulash is the stuff that comfort food dreams are made of! Forget the cozy blanket, the fire in the fireplace, and the mug of hot cocoa. A bowl of this rich, flavorful beef soup is all that you need to stay toasty and warm this season!
What is the difference between American and Hungarian goulash?
American goulash and classic Hungarian goulash are two very different dishes. American goulash is a comfort food meal made with ground beef, pasta, tomatoes and cheese. By contrast, traditional Hungarian goulash is a rich soup or stew most often prepared with chunks of beef (such as chuck or top round), a good amount of sweet paprika, onion and caraway seeds. This thick, rich mixture is often served over spaetzle, noodles or mashed potatoes.
The Hallmarks of a Classic Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Classic Hungarian goulash (in Hungarian it’s gulyás, pronounced GOO-yash), dates back to the 9th century! Gulyá translates literally to a herd of cows, and gulyás are the herdsmen. The Hungarian gulyás prepared a simple stew made with meat, spices and water, sometimes adding onions, cured bacon, or lard when available.
Over the centuries, Hungarians migrated to the United States (and other parts of the world as well), bringing with them their national dish. While you’ll certainly find many varieties of the traditional Hungarian meal, most experts agree that caraway and onions are essential building blocks for a proper gulyás. The meat is typically chunks of beef (these days, either chuck or top round) but pork is sometimes used as well, and vegetables might include peppers, potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Tomato and paprika are more modern additions, now often found in in most (Americanized) Hungarian goulash recipes.
An authentic Hungarian goulash is not thickened with a roux or flour, so it actually has a thinner soup-like consistency. I like to use flour to dredge the beef and help it brown, but that’s my American touch (that I learned from my mom). You can certainly omit that ingredient if you prefer a slightly thinner broth. Play around with the vegetables that you use, add potatoes if you like, and adjust the hefty amount of paprika to suit your taste. Serve it on its own like a soup, spoon it over noodles or mashed potatoes, or just soak up the rich broth with a hunk of good bread. Make this recipe your own and adapt it to fit your family’s taste. It’s rustic, simple, down-home comfort food that just feels good.
How to Make Hungarian Goulash
I like to prepare my Hungarian goulash recipe in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, because it allows me to simmer the pot uncovered (resulting in a thicker stew at the end). If convenience wins out and you’d rather make this stew in the slow cooker, I’ve also included those instructions below. The key to a great goulash is cooking it low-and-slow, which allows the flavors to come together, and the meat to become fall-apart tender.
- Beef chuck (cut into cubes) or pre-cut chunks of stewing beef
- Flour, salt and pepper
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Diced tomatoes
- Green bell peppers
- Potatoes (optional)
- Beef broth
- Sweet paprika
- Tomato paste
- Ground caraway seed
Step 1: Brown Meat
Whether you’re using a Dutch oven or a slow cooker, the first step is the same: dredge the meat in flour and brown in oil. This adds delicious flavor to the stew.
You’ll probably need to work in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the meat in the pan. You don’t want it to steam, but instead you want it to get some nice rich color on the outside.
Step 2: Add Remaining Ingredients
Stir in the vegetables, broth, tomato paste, and seasoning.
Step 3: Cook
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meat and vegetables are tender — about 2 hours.
Slow Cooker Instructions
Brown the beef on the stovetop as instructed. Transfer the beef to a Crock Pot, stir in the remaining ingredients, cover, and cook for 6-8 hours on LOW or 3-4 hours on HIGH.
How to Thicken
The small amount of flour that adheres to the beef will help to thicken the broth slightly, as will the tomato paste. If you prefer a thicker, richer stew (rather than a soup), you can simmer the pot on the stovetop with the lid off towards the end of the cooking time. You can also add potatoes to the stew, which will release starches as they cook, naturally thickening the mixture.
What to Serve with Hungarian Goulash
Garnish each serving with fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream, if you like. The hearty soup is a one-pot meal on its own (especially if you add the potatoes), but it’s also delicious when served with any of these sides:
- Buttered egg noodles or spaetzle
- Mashed potatoes
- A loaf of crusty No-Knead Bread
- Buttermilk biscuits, soft dinner rolls or crescent rolls
- 3-Ingredient Beer Bread
- A simple green salad dressed with Buttermilk Dressing or Balsamic Vinaigrette
This dish would also pair nicely with a glass of red wine. A shiraz or a cabernet sauvignon would both be great — you certainly don’t need anything fancy for this rustic meal.
This is a great make-ahead option that you can pull together on the weekend and then just reheat during the week when you want something quick at the last minute. It also freezes well, so you can prep a big batch in advance and stash it away for a busy evening.
Stored properly in an airtight container, the stew will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
You can also freeze the stew. All it to cool completely; package tightly in airtight containers, and freeze for up to 3 months. However, it’s important to know that the texture of the potatoes and vegetables will likely be mushier when thawed.
Thaw frozen stew in the refrigerator overnight. When chilled, the fat from the stew will rise to the top and harden. You can use a spoon to scrape off most of the fat, or you can simply leave it in the pot and stir it back into the dish when it heats up. Place the cooked stew in a saucepan or Dutch oven on the stovetop. Cover and warm over low heat, just until the stew reaches the desired temperature.
Tips for the Best Hungarian Goulash Recipe
- I purchase “stew beef” that has already been cut into cubes for a shortcut. If you can’t find this prepared stew beef, you can dice chuck steak, top round, or brisket to use in this recipe.
- Hungarian Paprika. Paprika is made from dried, ground peppers. Depending on the region and type of pepper, paprika can vary from sweet to spicy, and you may even find smoked paprika (which has a very strong, smoky flavor). In America, we largely use paprika as a colorful garnish. In Hungarian cuisine, a mild to sweet paprika is typically used to flavor the dish (rather than just to garnish on top). This recipe calls for 2-3 tablespoons of paprika, which seems like a lot, but is common for this dish. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more, to taste. It’s best if you can find a good quality Hungarian sweet paprika, but that’s not necessary for a delicious pot of goulash.
- Give the meat plenty of time to cook — at least 2 hours. Low and slow is the name of the game! The long cooking time allows the tough fibers in the meat to break down, yielding tender, succulent beef.
More Cozy Stew Recipes that You’ll Love
- Chicken Stew
- Beef Burgundy
- Oyster Stew
- Irish Stew
- Virginia Brunswick Stew
- Autumn Harvest Pork Stew
- Farmhouse Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- 2 lbs. beef chuck or boneless stewing beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ⅓ cup flour
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (not drained)
- 3 large onions, diced
- 3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ lbs. red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (optional)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2-3 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- Optional, for serving: mashed potatoes; egg noodles; spaetzle; crusty bread
- Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley; sour cream
- Place beef in a large Ziploc bag. Add flour, plus a dash of salt and pepper. Seal the bag and toss so that the beef chunks are coated in flour.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), brown the beef on both sides until the chunks turn a rich color (about 8-10 minutes). Don’t stir the beef too much as it’s cooking – you want to allow it to sit on one side and brown before turning it over or stirring it again.
- Add diced tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes (if using), beef broth, paprika, tomato paste and caraway seed. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Once the broth boils, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow the stew to simmer until the meat and vegetables are tender (approximately 2 hours). Remove lid during the final 10-15 minutes to allow the broth to thicken, if desired. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve goulash in bowls, or on plates over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Garnish with fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream.
This recipe was originally published in December, 2017. It was updated in December, 2020.